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Stomachs full and happy, festival-goers sat to listen to some of the greatest minds in the animal-rights movement today. Ripped athletes spilled their secrets at the Plant-Based Powerhouses panel discussion, followed by a string of panels such as The Future of Food, Cooking With Compassion, and The Next Social Justice Movement: Why animal rights is the social justice cause of the 21st century.

The latter panel featured an all-star speaker lineup: MFA founder Nathan Runkle joined PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk, Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation founder Marc Ching and vegan activist and entrepreneur Kat Von D., with radio personality Mark Thompson moderating. Ingrid remarked at how far the movement has come since creating PETA 37 years ago, when “vegan was somebody from Las Vegas.”

Circle V panel

Nathan Runkle, Ingrid Newkirk, Marc Ching; photo via Mercy for Animals

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Nathan stated, “Animal rights is the social justice movement of our time, certainly of our generation. If you look at the number of individuals who are suffering and exploited for their bodies and futures—almost 300 animals killed every second…They need us to speak up and speak on their behalf.”

As noted by more than one speaker that day, plant-based is gaining momentum not just with the public, but with food companies who see dollar signs in the vegan market. Animal agriculture giants like Tyson are now investing in cruelty free “meats,” “milks” and more — and even if their motivations are less than pristine, animals, the planet and human health will all benefit.

Heads swimming with newfound knowledge and inspiration, it was time to let loose and enjoy some tunes (after a trip to the vegan beer garden, of course). The musical lineup included ANML, Moon Honey, Raury, Reggie Watts, Moby, Dreamcar and Waka Flocka Flame. All thrilled the eager crowd — and I’m not ashamed to admit getting teary-eyed when Moby went into “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?”

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